Richard’s Tragedy

Let me just preface this blog post by saying that I have absolutely no idea what is going on in this play right now. Why is Richard so mean? Why did he kill that guy? Why does he want to marry the guy’s (that he killed) wife? Why is he planning to kill his brother? It’s like the tragic part of the tragedy has already happened and I have no clue why.

I may not know the reasons (yet) behind Richard’s motives, but I do know right now, that he wants his brothers dead. I can guess as well, that this is the direction in which the play is moving.

In Richard’s opening monologue, he discloses to the audience what his agenda is. “To set my brother Clarence and the King/ In deadly hate the one against the other./ And if King Edward be as true and just/ As I am subtle false and treacherous,/ This day should Clarence closely be mewed up/ About a prophecy which says that ‘G’/ Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.” We see here that Richard’s plan is to set up his brother Clarence against his other brother Edward. Edward has seen that there is a prophecy that indicates that one of his family members whose name starts with the letter G will kill him. The footnote for these lines reads that Edward believes that it is his brother George of Clarence that is going to be the one to do it, when in reality, it will be Richard of Gloucester.

In the first 40 lines, Shakespeare tangles the web once again to get this tragedy moving. Richard tricked his brother Edward and he will be the one to murder his brothers. Maybe this is not necessarily how the tragedy will end, but Shakespeare certainly wants us to think that so.

In Othello, the confusion didn’t start until almost the end of the play. But here, the tragedy is already in full speed. It’s interesting to me, that this is where Shakespeare starts us off. What does it to for the story?

Obviously, Marcella. It foreshadows the end of the play, duh! But besides that, I feel as though this solidifies the nature of Shakespeare’s tragedies: that tragedy is something that cannot be stopped. Even before the play starts, Richard has created tragedy. And now we know that he will only create more. The foreshadowing of the inevitable tragic ending of this play reminds us that this play is only going to dark places.


One thought on “Richard’s Tragedy

  1. Cyrus

    You raise a really good point here, Marcella, about the precipitous nature of the action at the beginning of this play. It’s one of the things I really like about Richard III–Shakespeare throws us into a lot of action in act I, and we have to catch up with Richard, in a sense, who has planned it all out. By the time Clarence is dead, and we have a moment to reflect on what has just passed, we can see how we are fully in the midst of the “plots” Richard has put into action.


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